Charles B. Macdonald – A Short Profile

14th November 2014

Charles Blair Macdonald, a player, administrator and architect, was one of the leading figures in the establishment of golf in the United States.

As he was born on this day in 1855 I thought I would find out a bit more about him.  Here are the 10 key facts I discovered in a golfing life well led.

Charles B Macdonald

Charles B. Macdonald (1895)

1. Charles B. Macdonald was born on 14th November 1855  in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.  His father was Scottish and his mother Canadian.  He soon moved to Chicago where he grew up.

2. In 1872 at age 16, he was sent to St. Andrews University in Scotland where he started to play golf.  He took lessons from Old Tom Morris and played matches on the Old Course.

3. He returned to Chicago in 1874 and became a successful stockbroker.  Consumed with work he rarely played golf until his late 30’s.  He moved to Wall Street in New York in 1890 as his career progressed.

4. He built the first 18-hole course in the United States.  The first golf club, St. Andrews Golf Club, outside New York was established in 1888 by a small group of Scottish immigrants.  Macdonald brought the game to Chicago, establishing the Chicago Golf Club in 1892 and building a modest 9-hole course with the support of several business associates.  In 1893 he expanded it to 18-holes thus creating the first full length course in the US.  In 1895 the Club decided to move and Macdonald built a new 18-hole course at Wheaton, where they remain to this day.  The old course is now the site of a 9-hole club, Downers Grove.

5. He was a driving force in the founding of the United States Golf Association (USGA).  In Autumn 1894 he helped arrange a meeting of the leading clubs of the day to establish a national body – delegates from the Chicago GC, St. Andrew’s GC, The Country Club, Newport CC, and Shinnecock Hills GC attended.  The result was the formation of the USGA, whose primary purpose would be to administer a national championship.  Macdonald was named Vice President of the organisation.

6. He won the first U.S. Amateur championship, held in 1895 at the Newport Country Club.  He beat Charles Sands 12 & 11 in the final.  This remains the record winning margin.

7. He is often described as the “father of American golf course architecture”, as he went on to build many notable early courses.  His experience in Scotland enabled him to introduce a more sophisticated design approach with clear strategic thinking evident in his work.  In 1908/09 he part-funded, designed and built the National Golf Links Of America in Southampton, New York.  The course hosted the inaugural Walker cup in 1922 and more recently the 2013 match.  He continued to tweak the National for the rest of his life and it remains to this day one of the premier courses in the world of golf.  He subsequently started to collaborate with Seth Raynor and the two of them designed many other notable courses.

The National Links of America (Photo: Larry Lambrecht)

8. In 1928, Macdonald published ‘Scotland’s Gift: Golf’ a cornerstone book in any high quality golf library.  In it he discusses the spread of golf in the United States from its humble beginnings in the late 1880s to 1927, when there were more than 4,000 courses in the country.  He also talks about some of his golf courses and his design philosophy.

9. He died aged 83 on 21st April 1939.  The 75th anniversary of his passing was earlier this year.

10. In 2007 Macdonald was inducted as a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, in the Lifetime Achievement category.


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